Top Grad gives students real world experience

Eleven contestants competed throughout the semester for a $2,000 cash prize, the opportunity to be featured in the university magazine and the title of Top Grad. However, film, television and digital media students said the real prize was the hands-on experience they gained behind the camera.

Students produced, shot and edited Top Grad, TCU’s first reality show. Julie Harrison, the show’s executive producer, said the experience aspect was beneficial to her education.

“I’ve taken the textbook materials that I’ve learned in my other classes and been able to apply them, which has been really nice,” she said.

Ellen Thomas, the executive story producer, said she has been able to see her skills progress.

“There’s only three editors working on this and none of us really knew that much about what we were doing when we started,” she said. “The first episode took us about three weeks to edit and at this point we’re churning out episodes in about five to six days, and you can see a clear difference in the quality.”

Richard Allen, a professor in the FTDM department, said he thought the show was a great learning experience for students.

“It wouldn’t really even matter what the show was as long as they [students] would learn how a show gets put together,” Allen said.

The FTDM department streamed the show online, something that was not an option until a few years ago, Harrison said.

Thomas and Harrison said the online aspect helped them professionally. Both students received internship offers as a result of work done on the show, seen by employers online.

“The biggest thing I think that markets internships and why people have decided to contact some of our students is based on the fact that they can go to the website and watch it [the show],” Harrison said.

Allen said the FTDM department created a different television show every other year, but Top Grad and the reality show aspect, could be something the department continues using.

“Before, a group would graduate and you couldn’t have the same characters,” Allen said. “Now, it’s not about the characters so we can do Top Grad again, and I think we will.”

Allen said the show would likely have another season in the spring of 2013 to allow time for students to prepare.



Xan Angelovich and Richard Allen explain what it’s like to tell a contestant to leave